Designer Janice Barta Freshens Up A Classic In The Pacific Palisades

From a distance, it can appear that Southern California homes are either hacienda-inspired affairs, L-shaped, post-war ranch houses, or big white boxes with lots of windows to take in the sun and the sea. But from the days of the early movie moguls, plenty of folks in the Golden State have appreciated a sober Tudor manor or center hall Colonial, too.

The Pacific Palisades neighborhood – where Charles and Ray Eames built the now iconic Case Study House #8 in the late 1940s – boasts its share of homes with a traditional East Coast aspect. While these residences often open to a garden rather than the beach (and seem perhaps more appropriate to New York’s Westchester County or Boston’s North Shore), they are designed for full-out living, with amply proportioned public rooms and the kind of old school formality that makes one want to throw a dinner party. Of course, those very assets can run counter to today’s relaxed lifestyle, but when orchestrated by a designer who appreciates the past but is firmly grounded in the present, such homes can be as with-it as any midcentury-modern abode.

When LA-based designer Janice Barta – a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of the Arts and Parsons School of Design – got a call to freshen up a relatively new Georgian, it was like going home. Hip to the spatial rhythm of the house and conversant with its detailing, she knew how to tweak it without eradicating the qualities that gave it its substantial presence. Other than transforming a little-used loggia into a playroom where the kids could have fun within sight of the kitchen, Barta didn’t make any major re-configurations. Instead, she “recovered, repurposed and repainted,” giving the house a lighter color palette and refreshing it with new furniture. “The point,” she explains, “wasn’t to apply some idea of open-plan California living, but to consider how to live traditional in a more modern way.”

One factor that played solidly into that making-it-now strategy was the homeowners’ art collection, which includes work by Mel Bochner and Damien Hirst. Putting on her curator’s cap, Barta made a point of finding a home for the various pieces, which had until then been in storage. Life is Beautiful, a pink neon work by L.A.-based Thierry Guetta (a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash), hangs at the end of the main hallway on the first floor. “It’s a very wide hallway and we wanted to treat it as a gallery,” remarks Barta. “That piece was always going to live there.” And it does.

For more like this home by Janice Barta, be sure to check out this dame of a home in Cape Town.

Photography by True O’Neill.

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